Mary Berry Everyday

Mary Berry. What can you say about Mary Berry? Although a food writer and TV presenter since the 1960s, many people (here, at least) have only come to know her more recently as co-judge with Paul Hollywood on the runaway British hit, “The Great British Bake”. Each week on the show (known as The Great British Baking Show in North America) home bakers are pitted against one another, taking on a variety of challenges in order to win the grand prize: a much-coveted crystal cake plate.

I love food shows and this is one of my favourites. My husband, who is not a baker, watches as well…and enjoys the home baked treats somewhat inspired from my watching.

Mary’s bare bone bio is:

  • she trained at The Cordon Bleu in Paris and ran a cookery school at her home
  • in the 1960s she was the cookery editor two major magazines in the UK
  • her first television series came in the 1970s
  • since 1970, she has written 75 cookbooks…and counting

I recently borrowed her new book, “Mary Berry Everyday”, which accompanies the television program of the same name. Having a flick through, there were many recipes that I was tempted to try but in the end I went with the biscuits featured on the cover. And they ARE cover worthy! Melt-in-the-mouth, buttery and with a lovely citrus flavour thanks to fresh orange peel and juice in the glaze. Oh, and easy to bake too.
Two floury thumbs up from me. Borrow “Everyday” and get baking!

— Sandi H.

Mary Berry’s Orange Oat Cookies

Dough

1 c butter, softened
1 c white sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 ¾ c self-raising flour
¼ c oatmeal

Glaze/Icing

1 c icing sugar
¼ tsp orange oil (optional)
2 tblsp freshly squeeze orange juice

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in egg, oil and 2/3 of the zest. Stir in flour and oatmeal.

Lightly dust a work surface with small amount of flour. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a walnut. The flour will make this easy; stopping them from being too sticky.

Set on prepared cookie sheets, about 8 per sheet as they do spread. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass until ½” thick.

Bake for 13 minutes or until just golden at the edges. Watch closely as they burn easily!

Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar with approximately 2 tblsp juice.

When the cookies are completely cool, spread glaze on top of cookies or drizzle with the glaze. Sprinkle with rest of the orange zest.

Makes 2 dozen.

Lookin’ Not Cookin’

There are thousands…hundreds of thousands…millions probably…of cookbooks out there. And while we don’t have millions of cookbooks at WPL, our collection is impressive and highly popular. Just take a walk down the cookbook aisle at the Main Library (Harper and McCormick have excellent selections too) and you will see just how wide-ranging they are.

Need to learn how to boil water? We have a good selection of very basic cookery books for adults…and for kids too. Have you jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon? WPL has cookbooks to make the most of the newest small appliance in your home. Does your New Year’s resolution include the Keto diet? We have Keto cookbooks. Making your own pad thai? We have just the cookbook for you.

Like most book selections, picking the right cookbook is a personal affair. A book that catches the eye of one person will be passed over by another. Confession. I will not borrow a cookbook that doesn’t have photos. This being said, beautiful photos does not a great cookbook make.

Recently I borrowed 3 gorgeous new cookbooks. However, when I had time to sit down and actually go through them, I wasn’t particularly inspired by any. In my mind they were cookbooks for lookin’ and not for cookin’.

Coco Cake Land : cute and pretty party cakes to bake and decorate” by Lyndsay Sung has an adorable cake on the cover and many inbetween. Sung is a “…baker, blogger and mama from Vancouver, BC.” and is self-taught. While I admired the cakes, my own cake & cookie decorating skills are rather more basic and my aspirations minimal. Although I wasn’t tempted to try Sung’s recipes I did thoroughly enjoy browsing through her book.

The Little Library Cookbook” was an obvious choice for me to take home. The book, by award-winning food writer, Kate Young, is about the pairing of food with literature. This was Young’s first book and it won a World Gourmand food writing award. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book quotes, notes from the author, and seeing what food items she had selected from which book. Again, I wasn’t compelled to try the recipes. It’s a beautifully put together book and worth a look. If you borrow it and make something, I’d love to hear about it.

IMG_20181216_1514001Finally, “Baking All Year Round” by Rosanna Pansino. I bake all year round so thought this should be right up my alley. Pansino is a YouTube star whose baking videos have been viewed over 3 billion (yes, billion with a “B”). In 2017 she was named Forbes’ Food Influencer of the Year. With 4 million followers on Instagram and almost 1 million on Twitter, how did I not know about her?

Back to the book though. Baking All Year Round is organized by celebratory occasion and Pansino has some super-cute decorating ideas especially for Halloween. However, be prepared to buy or rent cake moulds, work with a lot of fondant and set aside a chunk of time in which to assemble these goodies, which are guaranteed to greatly impress your family and friends.

Not a “fondant person”, I chose two of her simpler recipes to try. From the Father’s Day chapter, Salted Whisky Caramels and, from Christmas, Snowball Cookies. Both were pretty easy to make. A candy thermometer is a must for the caramels and the cookies should sit longer before dipping them in their snowy coating (icing sugar). I’d give the caramels a 6/10. The texture is good, they are buttery and chewy but the flavour of the whisky does not come through. The Snowball Cookies, a pecan shortbread, are delicious. I used ground pecans and the cookies just melt in your mouth. Something I would definitely make again.

So while none of these books will make it into my personal collection, they are worth a flick through. As are hundreds of others. Now, how to find that spare time…

– Sandi H.

Snowball Cookies

½ c butter, softened
¼ c granulated white sugar
¼ c icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
1 c finely chopped toasted pecans
Pinch salt
Icing sugar to roll cookies in

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

In large bowl with electric mixer beat the butter, white sugar ad ¼ c icing sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. On low speed, blend in flour, salt and nuts until combined.
Roll dough into small balls (walnut-sized). Space 1” apart on baking sheets. Bake 12 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies start to brown.

Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes.

When cookies are still warm, roll in icing sugar to coat. Set cookies on cooling rack and let cool for another 10 minutes, then roll again.

It Really is Delish!

delish-ht-ml-181017_hpEmbed_8x9_608It’s no secret. I love baking. I love cooking. I love trying new recipes. I enjoy TV shows revolving around food but rarely have time to sit down and watch them. And although I follow some favourite restaurants, chefs and food writers on social media, I am still more old school. Yes, you’ll find me browsing the cookbook section of the library or my favourite bookstores. So, when I took home the new cookbook “Delish”, I wasn’t aware of their “buzzy” background. In case you aren’t either, here’s the barebones version of their story.

Delish is a super popular food website with a very powerful presence on social media:

  • 19 million likes AND 19 million follows on Facebook
  • 1 million + followers on Instagram
  • Over 200,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel
  • 50,000 followers on Twitter

Relaunched in 2015, Delish is all about food and fun. According to their website, they wanted to “…create a place that was as much about delicious, easy recipes as it was about food as a fun lifestyle and cultural phenomenon.” Their youthful, energized team produce almost 200 new recipes a month, which is impressive to say the least. They also share crazy food stories, videos about their fav brands, info on celebrities and their eating habits and a whole lot more via their website and various social media platforms.
I don’t have time to look at their 18,000 + images on Facebook or thousands on Insta but what I did see looked yummmmmmy (that should probably be in caps!).

crack-chickenSo, although I’m not into the super-hype surrounding Delish (and the vibe made me feel a bit old, lol) I checked it out and set about testing a few recipes. The first was Crack Chicken which is basically boneless BBQ chicken wings. They are baked, not fried, and the panko crumb crust gives them good texture. The sauce, scrumptious, although it could be made with less sugar. They were easy to make and just delicious; a 10/10 from my husband, who was very sad there weren’t more stashed away! I also tried the Creamy Chicken Broccoli Bake which was, once again, easy and tasty and comforting on a cold winter evening. For a sweet, I made the Snickerdoodle Blondies. They were moist and rich. The next time I’d only make ½ of the cinnamon sugar that they recommend for sprinkling though.

Three recipes. Three successes. I didn’t have to buy any special ingredients for any of the recipes. There are quite a few other recipes throughout the book that I want to try. Mermaid Lemonade and Prosecco Grapes are on that list, as are Chicken Enchilada Skillets and Avocado Pesto Linguine. For these reasons I am hoping “Delish” shows up under the tree on December 25th for me.

— Sandi H.

Snickerdoodle Blondies

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cinnamon sugar (note from SH: using half this amount is plenty)

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9×9-inch pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat until just combined.

Press batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar. Bake until golden and still slightly soft in the middle, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool completely before slicing into squares.

Headin’ South

My Mum is a big fan of HGTV. Not that she is taking on any home renovations but she loves to see what other people are doing with theirs! As for me, I’m more apt to be watching something on BBC-Canada or a DVD borrowed from the library, so when I stopped by one day and Mum was watching a program starring Joanna Gaines, the name was new to me. Checking Instagram later, I discovered that I’m obviously in the minority as Gaines has 9.2 million followers!

In one of those funny happenstances, not long after this I was given a copy of Magnolia Table : a collection of recipes for gathering by Joanna Gaines with Marah Stets. I’d never heard of Joanna Gaines and now here she was, popping up in my life twice.

Gaines, who describes herself as “Wife. Mom. Renovator. Designer. Shop owner. Homebody.” has a number of businesses in Waco, Texas along with husband Chip. They opened their first “Magnolia Market” in 2003 but closed it later as they focused their energy on raising 5 children and expanding their construction company. In 2014, she turned her attention back to Magnolia.

The book looked just beautiful. There was a mixture of images taken around the Gaines’ farmstead and photos of delicious, traditional meals. Apparently this cookbook sold almost 170,000 copies the first week it hit bookstore shelves.

IMG_20181125_1548242I first tried the Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies. They were easy to make and pretty tasty although I have better shortbread recipes, I must say. I forwent dipping them in chocolate and instead used a little leftover icing from another bake and a bit of jam to create little sandwich cookies. My husband liked them…but didn’t love them.

I decided to try a second recipe. I had chicken thawing for dinner and thought I’d use Magnolia Table to create something different. I have to say, many of the chicken recipes were either fried or seemed to require cream cheese, heavy cream or Velveeta cheese. Now, I’m not the most virtuous eater but these rich dishes weren’t what I was looking for. The Almond Chicken Tenders sounded good and I had all of the ingredients in my pantry already.

I simplified the instructions, lightened up the amount of butter and oil, and ended up with a very tasty dish. The coating was light, the flavour from the almond flour was wonderful and the lemon juice added a brightness to the chicken.

While it is an attractive cookbook, I can’t say it’s personally a keeper for my own collection. Besides real BBQ (which I leave to the masters like the folks at Lancaster Smokehouse) I’m not a big fan of southern cooking. I am sharing Gaines’ recipe for the Almond Chicken Tenderloins below but with my own twists. However, if you want to go full-on Southern with this recipe, borrow the book from WPL (there’s just a short waiting list), buy it from your favourite bookseller or you could WIN my copy.

— Sandi H.

WIN “Magnolia Table”

2018-THE-MAGNOLIA-TABLE-COOKBOOK-1_1024x1024To have a chance at winning my copy of “Magnolia Table”:

Follow WPL on Instagram @waterloolibrary

Like the post about “Magnolia Table” with the comment “I love my library.”

The random draw will take place on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

The winner will need to pick their prize at WPL. Good luck!

Almond Chicken Tenders

½ c almond flour
½ c all purpose flour
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 ½ lb chicken tenders, thawed
2 tbsp salted butter
4 tbsp olive oil
½ c sliced almonds (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
Dried parsley (optional)

Combine dry ingredients and put in large ziplock bag. Add tenders to dry mixture. Seal bag and shake until coated.

In no-stick pan (I used a deep, electric skillet and set it at 325F), melt butter and add oil.

Add chicken (throw away leftover coating) and cook until done. Remove to serving platter.

Add lemon juice and almonds to pan. Cook, stirring continually with spatula, scraping everything together, for 1 minute. Pour over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Outrageous!

I have a few confessions to make. I love cooking. I love baking. I love discovering new recipes. I love cookbooks. Perhaps the most surprising confession? I rarely will buy a cookbook.

I borrow many (many) cookbooks from the library, finding a recipe here, a recipe there. However, very few cookbooks engage me enough to want to own the book forever and try the majority of recipes between its covers.

Family, friends and colleagues regularly share recipes with me, which I love. Sometimes I use good old Google to locate a recipe, especially if I’m trying to finish up something or other that is lingering in my pantry. There is an exception to my cookbook buying “rule”, well, a couple really. One exception is the cookbooks of Ina “The Barefoot Contessa” Garten.

Ina’s recipes are absolutely wonderful. They aren’t overly complicated, are flavourful and always work. Plus, they look awesome. Her roast chicken recipe is absolutely delicious, tender and juice and it looks exactly like the photo in the book. I shared the recipe with my nephew when he was hosting his first dinner party and his friends spent 10 minutes taking photos of the chicken to share online before diving in. Not a bite was left. That’s how good it is. Her chicken salad recipe. The best! Beef Bourguignon …amazing. I could go on and on.

choc_blogThe latest Barefoot Contessa book, “Cook Like a Pro”, was published this year. I believe it’s her 11th! As I wait patiently on the holds list, I decided to go back to Ina’s first cookbook and bake a batch of her incredible, super-chocolatey brownies for a recent family gathering. It has become my “go to” brownie recipe. Always work. Always decadent. Always disappear quickly.

— Sandi H.

Outrageous Brownies

1 cup butter
1 ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 – 1 oz squares bitter chocolate
3 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a 9” x 9” baking pan.

Combine the butter and chocolate in a double-boiler. When the chocolate has melted, set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.

Combine flour, powder and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and stir just until combined.
Bake for 20 minutes. Do toothpick test. It is VERY easy to overbake. These should be moist.

Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting into bars.

Note: the original recipe is for a much larger quantity. Although my husband would love that, I usually make 1/2 and that is the recipe that I am sharing above

Bake It Better

The Great British Bake Off has spawned a LOT of cookbooks, from judges (Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood), from winners, and others. GBBO’s Bake It Better : Puddings and Desserts is written by food stylist Jayne Cross.

The Bake It Better series, which came out in 2016, is a new addition to WPL’s collection. The “Puddings and Desserts” volume (#5) with a beautiful trifle gracing the cover caught my eye and, yes, traveled home with me from the library that night.

It guarantees the recipes are tried and true. There are more basic recipes for newbees as well as “show stoppers” for those more seasoned bakers or for those looking for a challenge. I have to say I thought that, although not overly impressive on first glance, the book was interesting and I confess I did find it difficult to decide on which recipe to try so I left it in the hands of my chief tester: my husband.

He took a quick look through, lingered over a couple of recipes (one of which sounded particularly good but I didn’t have the ingredients for…it happens) before choosing the Coconut Lime Rice Pudding.

The pudding was very easy to make and the flavour was good. I chose to add some raisins (what is rice pudding without raisins??) as well as a bit of dried coconut which I think complimented the lime perfectly. I also like a less creamy pudding, so chose to add a bit more rice. The recipe made quite a lot of pudding so we’ve ended up reheating and it was scrumptious. The lime came through even a bit stronger second time round.

In my opinion, this cookbook is definitely worth borrowing but perhaps not worth buying, but you borrow it from the library and be the judge.

— Sandi H.

Coconut Lime Rice Pudding

For the Pudding
2 tblsp butter
½ c rice
¼ c white sugar
1 – 400 ml can coconut milk
400 ml homogenized milk
Grated zest of 2 limes
For the Sauce*
¾ c fresh or frozen raspberries
¼ c white sugar
Juice of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 275F.

To make the pudding, put the butter in a heat/oven proof casserole. Set over element on low to melt. Stir in rice, then sugar. Stir for 5 minutes or until the sugar melts.

Add in both milks, stirring. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in zest. Cover casserole with foil and bake for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

While the pudding cooks, make the sauce. Put raspberries, sugar and lime juice in small saucepan over low. Heat, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the raspberries start to soften.

Serve the pudding with warm topped with the sauce.

*Option : if you don’t want to make the sauce, serve the pudding plain, or with raisins mixed in or with a dollop of high-quality red jam on top.

IMG_20181109_213915

Fun, Foodie Mysteries

Mystery novels. Are you a fan of them? I am, to a point.  This is not my #1 favourite genre but there definitely are some mystery series that I absolutely love.  The series which I do read faithfully are by British authors and the tone is generally between a cozy mystery and a thriller.

A colleague of mine who loved gory police procedurals used to comment on the fact that both she and I read mysteries but mine were the ones with the “bloodless” murders.  And really, that’s true. I have no interest in reading a book that will give me nightmares and I’m definitely more about the solving of the crime(s) through deduction rather than guns ablazing and shootouts in the menacing back alleys of big cities.

Sometimes though I need a change from the small village, multiple murder novels from the UK and switch to something lighthearted. These two American authors fit the bill.

Diane Mott Davidson was probably one of the earlier foodie mystery writers, starting her Goldy Schulz mystery series over 25 years ago with Catering to Nobody.  Goldy is a single mother who is trying to raise her son while make a living in Colorado as a caterer. In the course of building her client list and catering at various locations, public and private, evil doings start to occur and Goldy can’t help but become involved. Catering to Nobody was nominated for an Agatha Award for in the “Best First Novel” category but was beaten out by Katherine Hall Page for The Body in the Belfry.  All of Davidson’s novels include recipes of dishes mentioned in the story and in fact, in 2015, Davidson released a combination cookbook-memoir titled Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook : cooking, writing, family, life.

The other is G.A. McKevett.  McKevett (a pseudonym for Sonja Massie) is the author of 50 books which include the 22 (so far!) which feature ex-cop turned private detective Savannah Reid. The titles always make me smile (“Fat Free and Fatal”, “Corpse Suzette”, “Cooked Goose” … you get the idea) and so do the stories themselves. A transplanted Georgia peach and lover of fine dining and Southern homestyle delights, Savannah sets up the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency and soon is trying to clean up the streets of LA…or at least, her area of Southern California.

In a side note about culinary mysteries, back in the 90s British culinary writer, Janet Laurence, wrote a mystery series featuring (surprise, surprise) a culinary writer named Darina Lisle. They were light reads but the sleuthing was well thought out. If you can get your hands on them, they’re worth a read.

Enjoy this recipe from Diane Mott Davidson’s “Catering to Nobody”, a favourite with my family. And if you’re looking for a light mystery, give these authors a try.

— Sandi H.

Dungeon Bars (a.k.a. Oatmeal Raisin Bars)

1 c. unsalted butter, softened

½ c brown sugar

½ c white sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 c. all-purpose flour

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp baking soda

1 c. oatmeal

1 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add in flour, salt and soda. Stir in oats and raisins.

Spread mixture in a lightly greased 9 x 13” pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into bars.

Voracious!

Food and storytelling go hand in hand. From The Very Hungry Caterpillar munching along to Winnie-the-Pooh and his beloved honey. Harry Potter’s shepherd’s pie with a foaming tankard of butter beer to the mouthwatering descriptions of chocolates in the aptly named Chocolat.  And judging by the number of “novels for foodies” lists online and the fact that culinary fiction is hugely popular, I’m obviously not the only one who noticed this.

Butcher and blogger, Cara Nicoletti, has always been a bookworm. In her world, from childhood forward, books and food have always been a focus. Whether the books were shared with her by a family member during a particularly challenging period in Nicoletti’s life and meant to give solace, or simply by a friend who couldn’t wait to share their latest favourite read, she was happily surrounded by books.

In her book, Voracious: a hungry reader cooks her way through great books, Nicoletti shares her favourite works of literature along with food memories connected to each book, and recipes which compliment the meals featured between the covers.

She kicks things off with her childhood favourites, which include breakfast sausage from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and salted chocolate caramels from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The middle section, which covers her university years, includes clam chowder (“Moby Dick”) and chocolate eclairs (“Mrs Dalloway”). Brown butter crepes inspired by Gone Girl help cap off the final “adulthood” chapters of Voracious.

I was intrigued by the concept of Voracious and had high expectations. Voracious was a quick, light read and I did enjoy Nicoletti’s memories however I was a little disappointed in the recipes. I’d hoped to find a few to try but in the end I wasn’t inspired enough to note more than one (chocolate-covered digestive biscuits…I love digestive biscuits and always stock up on Marks & Spencer’s brand when overseas).

Reading Voracious did get me thinking about some of my favourite books featuring food. Excluding food-focused memoirs written by Peter Mayle, Frances Mayes, MFK Fisher and others, there are still a number with memorable scenes…scenes which will send you hurrying to the kitchen for a snack or to get cooking.

One of my favourite classics is Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott. I have lost count of the number of times I have read it over the years. Oddly enough, I never progressed on to the others in the series. “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys” just didn’t not have the same magic as Little Women.

In Little Women, the pages overflow with mentions of fluffy popovers (which the March sisters long for during tough times), rich steak and kidney pies, asparagus fresh from the garden, homemade currant jelly on freshly baked bread, sugarplums, petit fours with lemonade, soothing blancmange, and more. Oh, and there are some fairly comical disasters in the kitchen as well, to which we all can relate.

Going along with the theme in Voracious, I will share my recipe for popovers, inspired by the Christmas breakfast shared by the March family in Little Women. I love these when served warm with blackcurrant sloe gin preserves, but any jam will do.

— Sandi H.

Popovers

2 eggs
1 c milk
3 tblsp oil (I use Becel)
1 c all purpose flour
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450F.

Beat eggs until frothy. Mix in milk and oil. Gradually add in flour and salt, gently stirring to combine.

Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin tins. Fill each cup ½ full. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

Serve warm.

Only in Naples

What is it about Italy?  I am not Italian nor do I have any Italian blood in my ancestry but like millions of others, I enjoy preparing Italian dishes to savour, dream of visiting Italy (especially when shovelling the driveway again after the snow plow rumbles through), contemplate trying to learn the language online (free through Mango Languages with your library membership, by the way) and love to read about those travelling or relocating to Italia.

So, when I spied “Only in Naples” by Katherine Wilson on the new books display at the Main Library, it was a no brainer. Charming cover, combination foodie memoir and travelogue, set in ITALY.  Yes, this was a book for me.

American Katherine Wilson, a Princeton graduate from a privileged family, travelled to Italy on an unpaid internship. Through reaching out to a local contact, she meets Salvatore Avallone and his family. She quickly falls in love with one while being completely and warmly embraced by the other.

This memoir is light and humourous with Wilson sharing embarrassing moments and charming ones. And she also shares very important facts with her readers. For example, “Never eat the crust of a pizza first.” This is a major faux pas in Naples, the home of pizza.  Apparently pizza originally was a dish only enjoyed by the poor but soon became widely accepted, especially after the visit of Queen Margherita of Savoy. Yes, that Margherita pizza you enjoy at Famoso in UpTown Waterloo was first made in Naples.

Through the close relationship she forms with her future mother-in-law, Raffaella, Wilson learns about the culture and traditions of the Neapolitan people.  She is guided through the “do’s and don’ts” of her adopted homeland. She is also painstakingly taken through the careful preparation of dishes which Raffaella swears her Salvatore will not be able to live without!  Not that he’d have to since the newlyweds end up setting up house in the same apartment complex as the parents.  And, you guessed it, Raffaella sends some of her “famous” dishes (which Katherine struggles to duplicate exactly) to them daily via the elevator. Now that’s takeaway with a personal touch!

“Only in Naples” is a heartwarming book and I did enjoy it although I have to admit the smattering of Italian words and phrases started to feel a bit affected by halfway through the book.  Recipes are included but I wasn’t enticed enough to try them.  The descriptions of the food, the sauces, the cooking methods, will send you scurrying to Vincenzo’s for provisions as soon as you can!

I have been lucky enough to visit Italy and yes, it was a wonderful as I imagined, and yes, you should go if you ever have the opportunity. We visited northern Italy for an all-too-brief time, lingering in Milan and at Lake Como and having the most incredible and memorable meal of our lives.  (my husband still says the best pizza he ever had was in Innsbruck, Austria but that’s another story) Oh, and YES, we definitely plan to return to Italy and explore many other regions.

I don’t have a traditional, Neapolitan recipe to share from my own collection at this time so another favourite Italian recipe will simply have to do!

— Sandi H.

Chicken Marsala

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 3 pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp butter
1 onion, chopped
15 cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tblsp minced garlic
1 c Marsala wine
3/4 c mascarpone cheese
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fettucine or mashed potatoes

Instructions

Heat olive oil in heavy, large skillet.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook until just brown, then remove to a plate and cool slightly

While the chicken cools, melt 2 tblsp of the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes or until tender.  Add mushrooms and garlic. Saute 12 minute or until mushroom juices evaporate. Add wine and simmer 4 minutes or until the sauce reduces by half. Stir in mascarpone and mustard.

Cut the chicken into 1/3″ thick slices. Return to the skillet and coat with sauce. Cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat until chicken is completely cooked through. Stir in parsley. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with buttered fettucine noodles or mashed potatoes. Smells divine and tastes even better! If serving with potato, I recommend roasted carrots as a side dish.

Not New, But New to Me

We all love a shiny, new book, but sometimes a slightly scuffed cover, sitting on a book cart, returned to the library and awaiting reshelving, catches our eye.  These books can be gems, too, even if they no longer have the privilege of being displayed front and centre on the new book shelves.

The word “ingredients” jumped out at me since I am a keen amateur chef and am always on the lookout for a new (or new to me) foodie read.  I soon had “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister tucked away in my book bag.

In Bauermeister’s novel, Lillian, a restaurant owner and self-taught chef, had learned at an early age that the only way to reach her distant Mother was through food.

Lillian’s Father had walked out when she was a toddler, and her Mother found solace in books, escaping into the chapters of favourite novels any second she had. Lillian was lost and alone when her Mother disappeared behind the covers of her cherished tomes.

By the age of 8, she had taken over the cooking completely in their household of two and, with the help of friends’ sympathetic mothers, had developed decent skills. Realizing how people react to spices, to textures, to smells, she hatched her great plan.

“I’m going to cook her out.” Lillian proclaimed, determined that her food would entice her Mother to step out from behind her books and back into her daughter’s life.

Many years later, with a successful restaurant bearing her name, Lillian decided to start a small cooking school to share not only the art behind her tantalizing dishes, but to also show how food, and recipes shared, can transform friendships and even, in some cases, lives.

I really enjoyed this book. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the 8 students who meet each month at Lillian’s restaurant. We get to peek into their lives; their loves, their joys and their sorrows too. It was interesting to see how their lives intertwine and change through a chance meeting over the common interest of learning to cook.

And as for the descriptions of the food and its preparation, they made my mouth water and my fingers itch to get cooking, too.

To learn more about Erica Bauermeister and to check out her favourite recipes, visit her website.

— Sandi H.

Extra note: I recently read the sequel to “The School of Essential Ingredients” which is called “The Lost Art of Mixing” and, while it ties up some of the relationship loose ends from the first book, I felt it lacked a bit of the charm of “The School”. Was it worth reading? Yes, but only if you really enjoyed the first and wondered about the future of the characters.

As usual, I am happy to share a recipe along with my review. I’ve selected a recipe that is suitable for all levels of cooks. The recipe is easy, looks wonderful for presentation and is moist and flavourful each and every time.

FN_Ina Garten Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken.tifLemon Roast Chicken

1 onion, sliced thickly
Carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices lengthwise
1 – 5 to 6 lb. roasting chicken, fresh or thawed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved or quartered (depending on size of chicken)
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425F.

Put onions and carrots in roasting pan.

Rinse chicken inside and out. Pat dry with paper towel.  Set chicken on top of vegetables.

Liberally salt and pepper inside the cavity, then stuff with the thyme, lemon and garlic.  Tie legs together with kitchen string and tuck wings up under the body.  Brush outside of chicken with melted butter; salt and pepper.

Roast for 90 minutes or until juices run clear when you pierce the flesh between leg and thigh.

Serve hot with roasted carrots and onion, and mashed potatoes.